How Anxious Attachment Develops

If you find yourself constantly worrying about what others think about you or worrying that people don’t like you — your friends, your partner, your classmates — then know that you aren’t alone. Many adults have anxious attachment styles that impact their connections with other people. Do you have an anxious attachment style? Read on to find out and learn more.

What is an anxious attachment style?

The anxious attachment style is an attachment style in the insecure category, as described by attachment theory. People who have an anxious attachment style want to be loved. They really enjoy being close to other people and highly value their relationships. They’re capable of developing intimate relationships quickly.

However, when they’re alone, they feel a sense of anxiety or worry. They might believe that their partner is cheating on them or wants to break up with them. They might read into their friends’ text and become upset by a perceived slight. Their anxiety manifests into a deep focus on other people’s behaviors, speech, and needs. They also often have low self-esteem and a difficult time managing their feelings. Sometimes, they’re described as being “clingy” or “too much.”

What causes anxious attachment?

As with all of the attachment styles, how you were raised causes an anxious attachment style. Per attachment theory, babies and young children learn from their caregivers about how to relate to other people. They especially pick up on how their caregivers make them feel as a result of what they say or do.

Parents of people with anxious attachment styles may not have been consistent in their parenting, especially when it comes to paying attention to the needs of their children. For whatever reason, these parents went from being nurturing and caring in one moment too cold or distant in the next. This left the child unsure what to expect, resulting in anxiety. They might not have trusted that their caregiver would be there after school, causing them to worry all day. Or they might have started to believe that if they weren’t the perfect toddler, they would be ignored. You can see how these types of thoughts could grow into patterns and eventually, a style of relating to others.

What are the signs of anxious attachment?

There are many signs that accompany the anxious attachment style. While an anxious attachment style looks different for everyone, here are the generalizable ones:

Being anxious all the time is no fun — people with anxious attachment styles don’t think, act, and feel this way on purpose. Their brains learned a long time ago to work in this way, which is now automatic. They might not have insight into why they act the way they do and might even be confused about it themselves. It’s important to note, however, that you can change your attachment reactions with some hard work.

How do you stop anxious attachment?

You can’t simply stop your anxiety by willing it away. People with anxious attachment styles can, however, take steps towards developing more security in themselves and their relationships.

Here are a few ways to stop your anxious attachment:

Many therapists specialize in working with clients on their attachment styles. When you’re looking for a great therapist in your community, search Zencare’s therapist directory. You can even filter by Specialty, under which there is an option for “Attachment issues.” With the right support and the right tools, you can build security when it comes to relationships.